Novell Names Former Dell Exec As VP Of Channel And Alliances

Steve Erdman, 41, who assumed his new post at Novell on Feb. 6, will oversee channel sales for the Americas, a company spokesman said. He was hired by Susan Heystee, president of Novell Americas.

Erdman replaces Mark Hardart, formerly vice president and general manager of Novell's Worldwide Partners and Channels who left the company four months ago. Ladd Timpson continues to serve as worldwide director, channel and alliance marketing at Novell.

At Dell, Erdman served as a vice president. Prior to his three-year tenure at Dell, the Atlanta-based executive worked at 3Com for three years and at IBM's PC and server group for 13 years.

Erdman said he has not yet mapped out Novell's channel sales strategy but he is committed to strengthening Novell's partner network as a differentiator in the Linux market against rivals like Red Hat.

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"Novell is a very channel led company," Erdman told CRN in a brief interview Thursday. "When I was at IBM, it was 99 percent channel so everything we did was developing, growing and fostering a profitable channel model, and at 3Com, 95 percent of solutions came though the channel. Even at Dell, which is obviously a direct company, we had a lot of alliance partners who helped deliver world class solutions. It was always an element."

The executive acknowledged that Novell's Linux and open source business has grown slowly since the acquisition of SUSE Linux several years ago but he is confident that the company " and its channel partners " are sitting on a gold mine.

"Novell has a great opportunity to lead the enterprise in the open-source software solution environment and that platform of the future really intrigues me, " Erdman said. "When you look at open source it's the single largest change agent since the network infrastructure was built, and the biggest customer revolution will come as a result of open source."

He said Linux, open-source software, identity management and the data center build-out will give channel partners significant value-added opportunities. Still, his greatest challenge will be ensuring that channel partners get the resources and training they need to push forward on the Linux and open-source agenda.

"It's the next big thing after the bubble and the next big thing channel can provide to suppliers like Novel," the channel executive said, predicting stronger growth in the next year. "It's been more of an evolution than a light switch. It's been slow but the channel isn't different from the customer, and is reflective of what the customer asked them to do. The customers have been cautious, as has the channel."